Sentimental journey: back to the fifties with SS Rotterdam


All aboard for a nostalgic voyage aboard one of the last surviving classic 1950s ocean liners. Click on the images to see them full size.

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SS Rotterdam was the pride of the Dutch merchant marine when new in 1959. Today she’s a floating hotel and museum in her home port of Rotterdam.

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Not large by modern standards, she’s still an imposing sight from the quayside.

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My berth for the voyage was a spacious twin on the lower promenade deck, with some nice retro touches including original furniture…

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…and suitable reading material.

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This beautiful builder’s model takes pride of place next to the main staircase…

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…which is a work of art in its own right, consisting of not one but two interlocking staircases occupying the same stairwell: one for first class, the other for tourist.

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Rotterdam‘s public rooms are bold statements of fifties style. This is a detail from the smoking room…

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..and this is a more general view of the same room. The tables with their square-shaded lamps are original; the carpet has been re-woven to the original design.

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For many, the Ritz-Carlton ballroom is the most magnificent space on the ship, with a bronze dance floor…

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…and a dramatic, sweeping staircase that’s perfect for attention-seekers in evening dress.

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Some of the most striking artworks and furnishings are in relatively intimate spaces, like the former Tropic Bar…

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..and this seriously covetable love seat in the smoking room lobby.

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The Ambassador’s Lounge is the ship’s nightclub, and probably the most vibrant space on board…

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…with curved murals depicting the elements air and water.

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Of all the artworks on board, I most liked the red copper crustacea adorning the walls of the ship’s cocktail bar. They mix a mean rusty nail here, too.

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Some of the public rooms have been reconfigured, so what was once a tourist class space (and later the ship’s casino) is now its fine dining restaurant…

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…while the impressive twin dining rooms are now used for conferences.

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Ceramic friezes in the dining rooms are in beautiful condition.

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But it’s not just an ‘upstairs’ tour. You get to see behind the scenes too. Parts of the boiler room are screened off because there is still some asbestos down here – whereas it was stripped out from the passenger spaces above.

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I don’t speak Dutch, but thanks to my knowledge of English and German I was able to understand quite a lot of what the tour guide was saying. Context is all!

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The weather was grey and bleak during my visit, but I had to visit everywhere that was accessible, including the foredeck.

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Sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge with my mitts on the engine telegraph was a boyhood dream fulfilled.

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The view from the bridge wing is pretty impressive – drizzle or no drizzle.

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Not all the ship’s comforts were reserved for passengers. The captain’s sitting room isn’t at all bad.

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SS Rotterdam makes a rather romantic setting for a wedding. And this fifties Rolls-Royce is the perfect wedding car.

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Rotterdam dates from a time when ships still had curves.

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Even close up, her hull is so immaculate you’d never know she was built more than fifty years ago.

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